Architecture and Design

Inside Andrew King and Andy Johnson's Urban Tempe Loft

There’s something inherently chic about living in a loft. Maybe it’s the fluidity that comes with an open floor plan and high ceilings. Or perhaps it’s the wall of windows and the accompanying view. Whatever the reason, Andrew King and Andy Johnson’s urban aerie does not disappoint. The view out the window, when sitting at the large, ruff-hewn wood table, features Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gammage Auditorium and the south Tempe skyline.

Built in 2003, the Lofts at Orchidhouse sit just south of city hall in downtown Tempe. The building was constructed by Joe E. Woods and developed by Brownstone Residential. Johnson notes the lofts are the only homes in the area one can purchase, as the surrounding residential buildings are apartments and dorms.

King and Johnson’s loft is as creative as it is functional. Exposed conduit and ductwork pairs with original artwork and handcrafted ceramics to create a sense of dynamic energy. The space has a feeling of warmth about it, and not just because of all the glowing candles. King, a visual artist by trade, co-owns Standard Wax candles with his business partner, Samantha Thompson, and Johnson is an engineer.

The lofts were built over ten years ago, but King and Johnson feel like most people don’t even know a space like this exists in downtown Tempe.

“It’s not really a place you notice,” King says of the hidden gem, “which is perfect.”

Each loft space has a different floor plan, according to Johnson. Those who bought when the complex was newly built had the opportunity to design the space to fit their vision.

Over the past 12 years, King and Johnson had built some equity in their previous home, also in Tempe, and felt like this was the time to make a move.

However, with 1,050 square feet to house two people, two dogs, and a cat, they admit they’ve had to pare down a bit since moving into the loft in December of last year.

“I’ve become less of a consumer,” King says. “I used to be pretty bad.”

He adds he recently read Marie Kondo’s book on the art of decluttering and put the practice to work.

“Just today, I went through all these bookshelves and picked items up and if it didn’t speak to me anymore, it was out,” he says.

Aside from replacing a kitchen faucet, the couple says they haven’t made any changes to the space since moving in.

“Which is crazy, because in our old house I was painting all the time,” King says. “Our whole house was a canvas.”

Johnson agrees. “Yeah, you could do core samples on our walls to see the different layers.”

King has made a living as a graphic designer, a ceramic artist and a painter over the years. His ceramic vessels were the inspiration behind Standard Wax candles and his paintings are hung throughout the loft.

Over the next month, King will be taking most of his paintings to show at Practical Art. He admits he will be sad to see them go, as he and Johnson really like the way the pieces fit in the loft.

“As soon as there’s a void, that’s all I can focus on,” King says. “I’ll obsess until I find something to fill the space. I may paint the whole house really dark grey, like almost black. I like dark.”

“Until three months from now, when you don’t,” Johnson laughs. “But I trust his ideas.”

Originally from Missouri, Andrew King moved to Arizona 12 years ago and attended art school. Andy Johnson is an Arizona native and grew up in Mesa.

The couple recalls they met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and started dating about three years later.

“I thought he was an old roommate,” Johnson says, “which naturally sounded like a pick-up line when I approached him.”

King and Johnson got married in fall of 2014, after being together for over seven years. “We planned a surprise wedding to coincide with my 30th birthday,” King says.

Despite an admission of “hating” his birthday, the couple saw it as an opportunity to get everyone in one place.

“Our favorite, favorite place in the world is Bisbee, so we basically got all our friends to commit to this surprise birthday slash Halloween party,” King recalls.

Of the 50 partygoers, King says about half of them knew about the surprise wedding and the other half thought it was a surprise birthday party.

“So we walked in, we got married and then had a xylophonist and this crazy band from Tucson. It was so weird!” King remembers, laughing. The theme was bohemian and the party was replete with cozy floor pillows and a “lounge-like” vibe.

“It was awesome, so much fun,” Johnson says.

King and Johnson recently traveled to Peru and said it was liberating to be able to pack up and go without having to worry about home security.

“That’s how the real estate agent spun it,” King says. “Lock and go. We just have to drop the pets off somewhere.”

The couple admits to having some concerns about the impending hot weather. Having just moved in two months ago, they haven’t yet experienced what they anticipate to be a “hot summer.”

“With a wall of windows? We’re going to bake. The plan is a massive stretch of blackout shades,” King says.

“And lots of A/C,” adds Johnson.

For the time being, King props the window open with Standard Wax candles.

“Haven’t lost one yet!” he says laughing.

As sometimes happens when an artist turns a craft into a business, King went through some dark times as Standard Wax grew as a company.

“I had an emotional meltdown,” he explains, “and all this dark art came out of it.”

King says it ended up being very therapeutic to work through that time by creating art. He adds that, despite being a professional artist, it was the first time he’d ever used the medium as a tool to process emotional issues. Now that he’s on the other side of the struggle, King feels like he can shepherd other creative types through the darkness.

“It’s kind of liberating to be able to help walk other people through that,” he says. “To tell them, this is what’s going to happen and it’s going to be okay.”

King is quick to celebrate his husband’s creative accomplishments, as well.

“Andy’s an artist, too!” he says with pride. “He built this dining table and that chair in the living room.”

“We had some trellis work on the side of the house and I didn’t want to throw it away. So I built a chair,” Johnson says shrugging.

King says he has a “deep appreciation” for the creative process and buys original art every chance he gets.

“I’m not that guy who sees something and thinks I could go home and replicate it,” he says. “Someone took the time to create that piece of art – that should be respected.”

He adds people don’t always put enough value into their home environment.

“This is my most sacred space and where I will dedicate myself to making everything just perfect,” King says, “because at the end of the day, when you come to your home it should be your home. It shouldn’t be something contrived.”

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